So, where did we leave off last time? I think I was just about to run off to Europe for a week, so let's start there.
I flew into Heathrow early on a Saturday morning and after a tangle with an absolutely humorless and ridiculously short-tempered Immigration official, I made it onto the bus for Cambridge, where my cousin lives. I spent the weekend with her, her husband, and their two very cuddly kids, and mostly we just curled up and watched the Olympics (while I tried not to weep at how terrible NBC's coverage seemed in comparison to the BBC's). That Saturday was the day that GB won pretty much every gold in the offing, so that was a good day to be watching people compete on levels I can only dream of. (This is what the medals from the London games look like)
There was some weirdness Sunday night with my cousin's mother-in-law, who (just like the last mom-in-law I encountered) loved me while ignoring/dismissing my cousin. What is it about me that makes me catnip for emotionally withholding mothers-in-law? Not to mention that my cousin is as cute as a button and deserves all the love in the world. Grrrr.
ANYWAY, after a lovely Sunday afternoon (she took me to the pub where Watson and Crick were regulars!) and a less lovely Sunday evening with the extended family, I slept well and took the early Monday morning train to London, where I was looking forward to being reunited with the wonderful kate_lear.
Kate very nicely came and got me at the train station and then ran off to work, so I wandered around London, which was full of amusing delights such as this
and this, the Royal Opera House (which is going to be part of the next story I post, I swear, because I have been writing it/plotting it out forever),
and enigel! She and I had a very nice lunch together and chatted about Cabin Pressure (I still need to write my "Arthurrific!" story) and Sherlock and fandom and fic and then I went back to Kate's for a nice home-cooked meal and general giggliness during which we swapped recs for fantastic Sherlock fic and plotted out our next stories (we're each writing a 20K+ story at the moment, so there was some hand-wringing over character-wrangling and plot-clarifying).
Kate took Tuesday off to wander around London with me, just because she's lovely. So we went to a wonderful Beethoven concert at St. Martin
and then had lunch in the delightful Cafe in the Crypt and fangirled from afar at the pianist. There was gelato and location-finding as Kate gave me some London history and pointed out places where my characters might do certain things that I need them to do for this infernal story that makes me feel like Tantalus. We hammered out family details for the John Watson who lives in my head (hello, darling!) and lounged about like complete loafers later that afternoon before we got an early dinner and then went to THE GLOBE
for a production of Henry V starring Jamie Parker!!!
I'd seen Jamie Parker on Broadway in The History Boys, and during that show I could not take my eyes off him. He was even more magnetic here in H5, every inch the warrior-king for the first 9/10 of the play and then a delightfully roguish and perhaps confounded suitor in the last scene. It's an abrupt shift, but he made it work. Kate and I couldn't get tickets for seats, so we were groundlings, which was beyond cool (though hard on the feet, and it didn't help that it was raining). I hadn't realized how small the yard is, or to what extent the actors would include the groundlings in the performance - we were Henry's troops and the soldiers' confidantes and more besides. What an absolutely amazing experience. Jamie Parker, I will line up for your next performance in New York, whatever it is.
On Wednesday, I hugged Kate goodbye and set off for the British Museum, where I reunited with the lovely monkiedude. We went to see the very disappointing Shakespeare exhibit and talked all about Sherlock and fic and then she jetted off, while I stayed behind and saw the very good exhibit on the Horse and did a little shopping for art books. Then off to Brussels on the afternoon train!
I spent my one full day in Brussels with two septuagenarians, wives of my mom's colleagues, because despite my fairly advanced age, my mother cannot stop making play-dates for me (to be fair to her, she treats this as a favor to them, rather than to me, because she cannot fathom how spending time with me would not be the highlight of someone's day, or even life). The ladies and I wandered around Brussels, taking in the Grand Platz
and a sneak peek at some of the many murals adorning the city's walls (oxoniensis, this one's for you)
We hiked up to the cathedral
and then to the museum of art, which included some real beauties, despite its tiny size
It also included some fairly amazing depictions of heaven and hell, or bliss and misery. Here's a detail from a vision of civic prosperity, which indicates that real ladies ride their fish sidesaddle
There was some chocolate (I will refrain from revealing how much, though I will say that my favorite was the chocolate-covered speculoos, a crisp cinnamon biscuit that's somehow half gingersnap and half creamy goodness) and a few frites (nothing special) and this lovely bit of graffiti
and then my mom and I headed to Cologne (properly, Koln).
When we walked out of the train station - by the way, I highly recommend Thalys trains, as they're speedy, on time, and the service in first-class, which was about $2 more expensive than second class, was very good - the first thing we saw was the cathedral
Looks like someone just got cleaned, huh?
It was only a few blocks to our hotel, so we dropped our stuff and started wandering. Despite a map and very willing feet, we ended up not seeing much of what we'd planned, but we had a very nice dinner at a cheap, friendly, good Italian place and walked to the synagogue
and covered a lot of ground in between. The next day, we found a museum doing a very detailed exhibit on paintings of Rama and Sita from the Ramayana (my mom and I bonded over having Lakshmana as our favorite) and we did the wandering thing again, some more. We got into St. Martin (which had been inexplicably closed the day before, surprising even a visiting Irish priest)
which has the only grisaille-type stained-glass rose window I've seen in a major church (it went well with the stripped-down simplicity and beauty of the place)
It was a nice time, but I don't think I'd go back to Brussels or Cologne - I feel like I saw everything I wanted to see.
I was going to talk more, about TV and movies and books and theater, but that will have to wait, as this post is already bursting. How are you all doing?